Butterfly Network nets $250M to start shipping ultrasound-on-chip

Doctor holding iphone and iQ ultrasound device
Butterfly's iQ device plugs into an iPhone and is cleared for 13 diagnostic imaging applications, including musculoskeletal and vascular imaging. (Butterfly Network)

Butterfly Network has raised $250 million in series D financing that will bankroll the manufacturing and shipping of its hand-held ultrasound devices, the company said in a blog post. Its Butterfly iQ device is a pocket-sized ultrasound transducer that scored the FDA nod in October 2017 for 13 applications, the broadest clearance to date for such a device. 

The company set out to widen access to ultrasound imaging by putting it on a chip. Traditional cart-based ultrasound machines use at least three transducers and can be hard to find or maneuver in the emergency room. They also use ceramic crystal materials called piezoelectrics to generate and receive sound, the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering says

Butterfly’s iQ device plugs into an iPhone and integrates the capabilities of the three typical ultrasound probes into a single 2D matrix array comprised of thousands of microelectromechanical systems, the company says. This array is overlaid on an integrated circuit with electronics like those found in high-performance ultrasound systems. Musculoskeletal, cardiac and peripheral vessel imaging are among the 13 different diagnostic imaging applications for which the system is approved. 

A physician uses the device to scan a patient’s body and then views the images on an iPhone. Because the system combines three transducers in one, the physician does not need to switch out transducers to conduct imaging on a different part of the body, saving valuable time. The images are then sent to the cloud for storage. The iQ system is priced at less than $2,000, compared to traditional machines, which can cost anywhere between $25,000 and $250,000. 

The new financing will allow the company to start shipping the devices. Tens of thousands of customers have already reserved a device, the company said. 

RELATED: With FDA nod, Philips adds cardiac imaging to smartphone plug-in ultrasound device

Fidelity led the financing, while the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Fosun Pharma and a group of existing backers, including Jamie Dinan, also participated. 

"We are excited to announce that Butterfly Network will be working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to democratize our life saving ultrasound-on-chip technology, to help those most in need. Two-thirds of the world have no access to medical imaging and a woman dies every 90 seconds in childbirth. With this investment from the Gates Foundation, we can further our mission of maximizing the societal impact of ultrasound, changing the trajectory of healthcare around the world,” said Gioel Molinari, president of Butterfly Network. 

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